Why Your Doctor Brushes Off Your Menopause Symptoms

It’s not their fault! Honestly, it’s not.

It’s a well kept secret that most primary care providers and ob/gyns get little to no medical training treating menopause.  Unfortunately for midlife women, menopause symptoms masquerade as many other diseases. Add to that, most women believe their “change” begins in their late forties or early fifties.  Yet the truth is, many women begin to have hormonal fluctuations in their early 40’s and these changes go unrecognized. The lack of menopause education is only one part of the equation why your doctor may ignore your symptoms. The second is the well-woman visit is designed for wellness. Treating menopause is not considered wellness in the medical community.

Women tend to push ahead like champions while suffering from menopause symptoms. They often  save up  their complaints for their yearly well-woman visit. However, medical guidelines and insurance plans have their own vision for what doctors should cover during that visit.

Well-woman visits are meant for wellness and prevention.  Preventative health is meant to stop disease before it starts. The Women’s Preventive Services Initiative (WPSI) publishes guidelines each year for well-woman care.  You can find them here: https://www.womenspreventivehealth.org/

These guidelines are decided upon by members of the organizations devoted to female health such as American Academy of Family Physicians, American College of Obstetrician and Gynecologists, American College of Physicians and Nurse Practitioners in Women’s Health.  

The current 2021 guidelines detail what your well-woman visit is meant to provide:

  • Cervical cancer screening
  • Breast cancer screening
  • Contraception
  • Counseling for sexually transmitted infections/HIV
  • Screening for domestic violence
  • Screening for anxiety/depression
  • Screening for obesity
  • Lipid screening
  • Tobacco screening
  • Screening for urinary incontinence

Guess what is missing from the list?  Screening for menopause!  Even if a woman’s doctor is well educated to treat menopause, dismissal of her symptoms at her well-woman visit is common, leaving women feeling frustrated.

So what exactly is screening for disease? Screening is a medical test or procedure meant to detect disease when you have no symptoms. Screening is meant to keep you well before an unknown disease makes you sick.  When a woman complains of menopause symptoms (hot flashes, sleep disturbances, mood changes, etc) at her well-woman exam, those complaints are not considered a component of  wellness.

Evaluation and treatment of menopause symptoms requires a deeper dive into your complaints, maybe even ordering lab testing, all of which requires additional time outside of your wellness visit.   Let’s use this comparison... Imagine you scheduled yourself for a haircut but arrived for your appointment and expected a color at the same visit. Your stylist would definitely ask you to return for your color application if she had a full schedule of clients. Your doctor is no different!

If you would like your doctor’s undivided attention to address bothersome midlife changes, make a separate visit. Give your doctor the opportunity to dive deeper into your complaints. Give them the opportunity to schedule enough time to answer your questions and provide you the treatment you deserve. Treating menopause is so much more than just writing a prescription.    

A friendly word of advice before scheduling your menopause visit.  Ask your doctor if they are comfortable treating menopause. Don’t be shy. It is a simple question.  If they don’t reply with a confident yes, save yourself precious time and healthcare dollars.  Make your appointment with a menopause specialist like the providers here at MyMenopauseRx.

Barbra Hanna, DO, FACOG, MSCP

Barbra Hanna, DO, FACOG, MSCP

Dr Barbra Hanna, a board-certified OB/GYN and Menopause Society Certified Practitioner has 25+ years experience in women's health. She founded MyMenopauseRx to fill the void in menopause healthcare.